St Martin-le-Grand Norman Church Ruins, Market Square, Dover, Kent, UK (2)

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John Latter on April 6, 2009

A view of the exposed ruins of Dover's Norman church of St Martin-le-Grand photographed from the short access road leading from the Market Square to Dover Library (part of the Discovery Centre).

Another view of the ruins can be seen in this photo.

The following two paragraphs are abridged from text found on the Market Square tourist information plaque:

  1. As the River Dour began to silt up and more land was reclaimed, the old Roman quay and fort near the Market Square, which the Romans had abandoned in the 5th Century, fell into disuse. In the 7th Century Widred, King of Kent, built a Saxon church, dedicated to St Martin on the west side of the square, St Martin being the Patron Saint of Dover. This was burnt down by William the Conqueror in 1066 during his march from Hastings to London. The church was replaced by a much larger Monastery and Church built by Odo, the Constable of the Castle and Earl of Kent from 1066 - 1084 (Odo was also the Bishop of Bayeaux).

  2. The church of St. Martin-le-Grand was so large and important that it embraced three seperate parish churches within its walls [1]. During Henry VIII's Reformation the church was closed and finally destroyed in 1535. Most of the remains were removed in 1892; the last remnants, demolished in 1955, were incorporated into the front wall of the bank on the west side of the Square.

This photo shows "...work in progress, during rescue-excavations in 1974, on the south-west pier of the central tower of the Norman church of St.Martin-le-Grand, built about A.D. 1100".

The building with the flat white roof on the edge of the photo to the left of the trees is a single-storey structure housing the "Roman Painted House" (located in New Street; another view from Market Street):

...Built about A.D. 200 the Roman Painted House formed part of a large mansion or official hotel, for travellers crossing the English Channel. It stood outside the great naval fort of the Classis Britannica, but in A.D. 270 it was demolished by the Roman army during the construction of a larger fort. Three of its main rooms were then buried substantially intact under its ramparts.

The burial by the Army resulted in the unique survival of over 400 sq. ft. of painted plaster, the most extensive ever found north of the Alps (abridged from AboutBritain.com).

This photo shows the entrance to New Street from the junction of Cannon Street and Biggin Street, the Roman Painted House lies further along on the left and is set back from the road.

At the top of the very centre of the above photo the spire of the church of St Mary the Virgin is just about visible above the houses of Cannon Street:

The existing Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Cannon (ex Canon) Street, Dover is a Norman church built between 1066 and 1086.

Probably built on top of a Saxon church, but certainly built on top of an even earlier Roman structure.

The image shows the vertical sundial added in 1656 to the southern-side of the tower. The tower contains eight bells, a fact reflected in the name of the Eight Bells public house located on the other side of the street.

[1] See Dover Churches which quotes from a 1907 source, saying:

The remains of this ancient church (St Martin-le-Grand) are interesting as being a rare example of the three projecting chapels at the east end of the choir being left unaltered. It also illustrates the discovery made by the late Canon Scott Robertson that the three parishes of St. Martin, St. Nicholas, and St. John the Baptist had their churches under one roof - the southern chapel containing the altar of the church of St. Nicholas, the central one that of St. Martin, and the northern one that of St. John the Baptist.

The ruins of the Knights Templar church near the Napoleonic Western Heights fortifications are in a similar state of preservation (both are English Heritage sites).

The above photo was taken on Sunday the 29nd of March, 2009, at 8.56 am.

This is the Images of Dover website.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 30, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/03/29 08:56:24
    • Exposure: 0.006s (1/180)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/9.500
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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